[Note: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author alone.]
On 7 November 2017, King Michael of Romania lay dying in his residence at Aubonne, Switzerland. Members of the king’s family traveled to his Swiss home to be by his side. Of Michael’s five daughters, all but one (Irina) was able to visit him. Of the king’s five grandchildren, only one (Nicholas) attempted to see his grandfather.
Alas, Michael’s eldest daughter Margarita was present at the residence, and, for reasons known only to her, she behaved in a most hawkish manner towards her nephew. Those present at the Aubonne residence denied Nicholas the opportunity to say goodbye to his grandfather. Margarita was the guardian of her father and had become a Swiss citizen in June 2017. Following Nicholas’ rebuffed hope of seeing his grandfather, Margarita’s press office in Bucharest issued a statement alleging that her nephew had “physically and verbally assaulted staff.” It was announced that Margarita had filed a complaint with the Swiss police against her nephew and godson. To this day, Margarita continues her frivolous legal suit against her nephew, despite the fact that the three main witnesses in the case have withdrawn their initial statements supporting Margarita’s accusations. Nicholas’ response to this devastating event was very simple and heartfelt: “I am deeply saddened, and I do not understand the aggressiveness of the Royal House in doing everything possible to prevent me see from seeing my grandfather and to discredit my image. I am not going to enter into this dirty game. I will choose to respect my grandfather in these difficult moments, because it is necessary, and Christian. I came as the grandson of the King, and I just wanted to see him.” However, this cold behaviour from the household at Elisabeta Palace had been experienced by other members of the Romanian royal family as well.
On 2 March 2016, Margarita of Romania assumed the title of Custodian of the Romanian Crown and announced that she would officially be taking over her father’s duties. In actuality, the princess had been acting in this capacity for some years. In this same communiqué, the public relations team at Elisabeta Palace, headquarters for Princess Margarita and her husband Radu, finally made public that King Michael was suffering from cancer. In fact, His Majesty had already received this diagnosis in 2015. The Custodian of the Crown’s staff in Bucharest has not always been completely truthful when Romanians desired news of the wellbeing and health of their king and queen.
As aforementioned, it was clear by March 2016 that King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania were both in ill health. At this point, one of the couple’s grandchildren took to a public forum to comment on the issues that were faced by family members who were not in favour with the Custodian of the Crown and her consort. Angelica de Roumanie Kreuger, the only daughter of Princess Irina of Romania, wrote: “I’m sure as long as his grandchildren from Irina are allowed to visit they will. I know the king has meet [sic] his first great-grand child but so far no others.” The same day, Angelica left the following insightful comment: “I’m sure if the royal family was more family oriented then the family would be closer.” When I posited that Queen Anne seemed to have been the unifying force trying to keep the family together, her granddaughter replied: “Yes, unfortunately the daughters didn’t get along for many years. Just sad that it made the grandchildren so distant. Hopefully the family will find a way to keep together for the next generation.” These comments from Angelica Kreuger made it clear that a number of the family members of King Michael and Queen Anne were kept from seeing their loved ones.
On 1 August 2016, Queen Anne of Romania passed away at Morges, Switzerland. She was ninety-two years-old. In poor health for some years, and dealing with dementia, the ultimate cause of the queen’s death was lung cancer, according to several private sources close to the royal household. However, Elisabeta Palace made no mention of the queen’s illness. Indeed, they made a concerted effort to quash sources who knew of Queen Anne’s cancer in an attempt to keep this knowledge from the Romanian public. [Like her cousin Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Anne of Romania was an inveterate smoker and quite fond of Marlboros. Anne once endearingly quipped: “The only way I could ever stop smoking is if they hypnotized me into thinking I had never had a cigarette in my life.“]
The Custodian of the Romanian Crown does not appear to have extended an invitation to all of her sisters, nieces, and nephews to be present to bid farewell to the last Romanian Queen, who was born a Princess of Bourbon-Parma. To illustrate this point, Anne’s granddaughter Angelica Kreuger again weighed in on the situation: “I’m sure in this horrible time Irina and her children will likely not attend to spare and [add] more stress to the family. [This is] due to past issues, since grief can make unresolved issues come to light. Right now, people need to realize that this woman wasn’t just a Queen, she was a mother and grandmother. While the country grieves for their loss of a Queen the family grieves for the family. Anne’s loss will be felt in everyone who knew her. A little light has dimmed in the world, but it is our duty as people to keep her light bright and remember what she stood for. Especially in this world, we live to make it brighter, not darker.” Given this commentary, it should not come as a surprise that neither Princess Irina nor her two children were guests at the funeral of Queen Anne of Romania on 13 August 2016 at Bucharest.
Aged ninety-six, King Michael of Romania died on 5 December 2017 at Aubonne, Switzerland. His funeral was held in Bucharest on 16 December. All five of his daughters were in attendance: the Princesses Margarita, Helen, Irina, Sophie, and Marie. Of his five grandchildren, only two were present: Nicholas of Romania with his wife, Alina-Maria, as well as his sister Karina. The Custodian of the Crown again made a public point of sidelining her family. When King Michael’s coffin was transported from Bucharest to Curtea de Argeş aboard the Royal Train, Margarita did not allow her nephew and his wife to be onboard the train with the rest of the family. However, the princess managed to make space for her brother-in-law, Dr. Dan Duda.
The rapid disintegration of the Romanian royal family is rather mind-boggling. In 2007, King Michael of Romania introduced the Fundamental Rules: this act abolished Salic succession and allowed for his five daughters and five grandchildren to become dynasts and to succeed, should their time ever arrive, as Head of the Royal House. In April 2010, in accordance with His Majesty’s express wishes, the King witnessed his grandson take up his role as HRH Prince Nicholas of Romania during a ceremony in Bucharest. During his time as an active member of the royal family, Prince Nicholas carried out hundreds of engagements on behalf of the Romanian royal house.
The first signs of turbulence arrived on 29 October 2014, when Princess Irina of Romania and her two children were unceremoniously stripped of their place in the line of succession. In January 2015, Princess Marie of Romania relocated from her home in the United States to her father’s country, and she eventually began public engagements. On 10 August 2015, Prince Nicholas of Romania was suddenly stripped of his position. The royal house thus lost its most popular and viable hope for the future. In the fall of 2018, Princess Sophie of Romania and her daughter Elisabeta left their home in France so that Sophie could take up a supporting role in Casa Regala. By the end of 2019, anonymous sources confirmed that Princess Marie had stepped back from her role as an active member of the royal house. At this point, the Custodian of the Crown has whittled down the royal house to one other member, her Princess Sophie. Yet, even Sophie’s position is not without difficulty, as sources have alleged that her daughter Elisabeta is having difficulties adjusting to life in Romania. Last, but not least, Princess Helen of Romania has always maintained her residence in the United Kingdom, and there has been no indication that Helen ever intends to be a part of Romanian public life. Despite being Margarita’s direct heiress, Helen only appears in the country for certain family events and, otherwise, rarely travels to Romania.
Many might think that 2020 has been another annus horribilis for the British royal family. Arguably, 2020 could prove to be the ultimate horrible year for the Romanian royals. If Princess Margarita finds herself incapable of unifying her family, then she is likely to go down in royal history as an abject failure as a Head of a Royal House. It is the duty of the Custodian of the Romanian Crown to guarantee the future of the dynasty. In the spirit of Christian reconciliation, it is her responsibility to bring together her sisters, her nephews, and her nieces, in order that they can all strive to perpetuate the legacy of the Kings and Queen of Romania into future generations. Margarita of Romania must embrace the maxim, “Duty first, self second.” If the Margarita is unable to adapt her behaviour, then her tenure as Head of the Romanian Royal House will not be looked upon kindly by history.
At the thirtieth birthday party for Prince Nicholas in April 2015, his aunt Margarita gave this toast in tribute to Nicholas’ dedication to Romania: “Both Prince Radu and I are very proud of Nicolae, who is like our spiritual son (…) The country hasn’t adopted him much yet, but he already adopted Romania, even if he wasn’t born here. And this is just wonderful.” Chapter III, Article 11 of the Fundamental Rules of the Romanian Royal House reads: “The Head of the Royal House of Romania governs the family as a good parent.” The Custodian of the Crown needs to start acting like a caring godmother, sister, and aunt if she is to honour the legacy of King Michael and Queen Anne. Nihil sine Deo.